Today, the Obama administration unveiled its new plan for fighting drugs, which will focus on using science-based prevention initiatives, and sending non-violent offenders to treatment instead of jail. A large part of the 2013 National Drug Control Strategy will focus on a “smart on crime” approach to drug enforcement, creating more drug courts and directing many of those who have been arrested to treatment facilities. And under the new rule in the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will be required to cover treatment for substance use disorders. “This plan represents a smarter approach to drug policy in America—one based on the premise that addiction is a disease that can be prevented and treated,” says Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy. “We must address drug use as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue.” The Obama administration has requested over $10.7 billion to support drug education programs and increase treatment availability around the country. However, Kerlikowske says that there will still be law enforcement efforts against those manufacturing or dealing illegal drugs.
But many drug policy experts and advocates are critical of the new plan, and doubt that it will make a positive difference. “The administration wants to have it both ways—to say it sees addiction as a disease and that it is committed to a public health approach—but it then insists that people struggling with addiction to illicit drugs must be handled by and within the criminal justice system,” Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, tells The Fix. “Drug courts are not a public health approach to drug misuse, nor are policies that incarcerate people whose only offense is to possess or consume an illicit substance.” Nadelmann also points out that the report fails to mention harm reduction policies (like supervised injection facilities) or any progress towards decriminalization. He believes this makes the new strategy essentially useless, explaining: “With the single exception of the administration’s recent embrace of public health approaches to reduce overdose fatalities—for which it deserves praise—this report smacks of spin control, of essentially trying to put a kinder and gentler face on a drug policy that remains in the Dark Ages.”
Sharon Osbourne says she was in the dark about the extent of husband Ozzy Osbourne's recent relapse, including his abuse of prescription pills. The Black Sabbath frontman admitted in a Facebook post last week that he had been drinking and doing drugs for the past 18 months, but had been sober for 44 days (53 days as of April 24). In yesterday's episode of her TV show The Talk, Ozzy's wife of 31 years said that while she was aware he had been "drinking occasionally," she “didn’t realize to what extent” and was unaware he had been using prescription drugs. “Everybody knows he’s been struggling with this his entire life...it’s our business—we’re dealing with it. We’re not getting divorced,” she said, “However, am I happy? No. Am I upset? Yes, I am—I’m devastated right now.” The pair are currently living in separate homes, and Sharon has stated that she won't move back in with him until he has been sober for several months. “It’s a disease that not only hurts the person that has the disease, but it hurts the family,” she said. “It hurts people that love you and we’re dealing with it.” However, she says she has faith in her husband's recovery, and believes their marriage is salvagable. “We’ve dealt with worse...and this too shall pass,” she said. “Otherwise my husband will be taken to the hospital to get my foot removed from his ass.”
In 2010, there were 80,000 drug and alcohol overdose deaths in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But which drugs are the most lethal? Popular Science has published a graph to show the breakdown of deaths by substances between 1999 to 2010. Leading the pack in lethality are "Pharmaceuticals," making up the big green portion of the stack, with "Unspecified" overdoses coming in at a distant second. On the flip side, the "Other" category—which includes cannabis, LSD, opium, mescaline, mushrooms and all cases of overdose by assault (intentional poisoning of someone with intent to harm or kill)—contains so few deaths it makes up a thin sliver of gray on top. Overall, the rate of reported overdoses the US more than doubled between 1999 and 2010. About half of those additional deaths are in the pharmaceuticals category, and nearly three-quarters of these deaths are from prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin.
US immigrants caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer be subject to mandatory deportation, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. Those charged with minor possession will be able to at least appeal the automatic deportation punishment currently in place, the court ruled 7 to 2. The court sided with defendant Adrian Moncrieffe, who immigrated to the US from Jamaica when he was three years old, and was caught with a small amount of marijuana—3 joints—during a 2007 traffic stop in Georgia. After his arrest, Moncrieffe pled guilty to a charge of possession with the attempt to distribute. This being his first offense, he was spared jail time and was told the charge would be expunged in 5 years. But an immigration judge saw his crime as a felony punishable by deportation, under federal law, and Moncrieffe was deported to Jamaica. But yesterday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that his crime was too minor to warrant mandatory deportation, and she criticized the government for doling out such a harsh penalty. “This is the third time in seven years that we have considered whether the government has properly characterized a low-level drug offense as ‘illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,’ and thus an ‘aggravated felony.' Once again we hold that the government’s approach defies the commonsense conception of these terms,” she wrote. Her decision was backed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan.
Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton visited a Manchester school yesterday to launch a counseling program called M-PACT, which supports children whose parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs. The 31-year-old mom-to-be gave a rare speech during her visit, describing addiction as a “hugely complex and destructive disease. All too often, lives and families can be shattered by it." The counseling program is a partnership between the Royal Foundation, UK-based charity Comic Relief and Middleton’s charities Place2Be and Action on Addiction. "Through my Patronage of Action on Addiction, I feel fortunate to have met a wide range of inspirational people who have overcome addiction,” said Middleton, “But those who are addicted are not the only victims. I have been struck by the profound and deeply damaging impact it has on the children of affected parents. Research has shown that children of those who are addicted are seven times more likely to have addiction problems themselves. They are also brought up surrounded by fear, instability and chaos.” The Manchester school is used as a backdrop for popular British tv show Shameless, about a family of children with an alcoholic father. Since choosing to support addiction as one of her main causes since becoming a member of the Royal family in 2012, Middleton has visited a dry bar in Liverpool, toured a UK treatment center, and visited recovering addicts this past Valentine's Day. By launching the new counseling program, she said: “My hope is that through this specialist and targeted delivery of care, these children will have the best possible start in life—the one that they deserve."
- College Binge Drinking Raises Risk of Heart Disease [LA Times]
- 87-Year-Old British Man Donates 1,800 Pounds to Jailed Drug Smuggler [BBC]
- Justices Say US Improperly Deported Man Over Marijuana [NPR]
- DC Medical Marijuana Dispensary Receives License [Huffington Post]
- Mexico's Zeta Cartel Has Been Recruiting US Citizens for Years [Fox News]
- Jenelle Evans Arrested Yet Again, This Time for Heroin and Assault [Jezebel]
- Madonna's Homeless Brother Arrested, Injured in Struggle With Police [E!]